If Ron DePascale of Kennedy had been asked to describe himself in one word, it probably would have been “maestro.”
He was, literally, a maestro — he directed middle school band students — but Mr. DePascale had an extra liking for the word. His computer passwords usually included some variation of it, said his wife, Gigi Sommers DePascale. It was indicative of his lifelong love for teaching music, sparked by the toy trumpet his parents gave him when he was a child.
Mr. DePascale, a band director and longtime music teacher at David E. Williams Middle School in Kennedy, died Wednesday from complications of follicular lymphoma. He was 59.
Mr. DePascale’s more-than-20-year career at Montour School District followed many years of commitment to music education. He studied the field at Duquesne University, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. After college, he went on to teach band and music at Sto-Rox High School in Stowe, where he met his wife, also once a teacher there. He continued on in his career at Montour schools, most recently at David E. Williams.
To Mr. DePascale, his wife said, teaching was the “best occupation” because he could see the difference he was making for the children he taught. When students told him they had practiced their instruments at home, “he was so thrilled,” Mrs. DePascale said.
“He loved it, and the kids loved him,” she said.
But Mr. DePascale, who played trumpet from a young age but learned to teach a number of other instruments to his students, had a passion for music that reached outside the traditional public school classroom. Years ago, Mrs. DePascale said, her husband expressed interest in teaching adults, and he began working at Allegheny Intermediate Unit, part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, where he taught courses on topics ranging from keyboarding to pop music.
He also was director of the Ohio Valley Community Band, a volunteer position, and was previously an officer with the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and served on the educators’ committee of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
His colleagues at David E. Williams said the school will miss Mr. DePascale’s commitment to music and to students.
William Griffith of Squirrel Hill, a math teacher at David E. Williams, said Mr. DePascale “made music education fun,” exposing his students to a variety of music and teaching them about its history. He often would stay after school to work with band students, said the school’s principal, Dominic Salpeck.
“Ron was the kind of guy who really put the interest of the students first,” Mr. Salpeck said. “He would go out of his way to make his students better musicians.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. DePascale is survived by his brother, Vince DePascale of Kennedy. A service is planned for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at St. John of God Parish, St. Mary’s Church, 1011 Church Ave. in McKees Rocks.
Madeline R. Conway: firstname.lastname@example.org